The last Monday of May marks the federal holiday known as Memorial Day when Americans recognize the ultimate sacrifice of our men and women that died in combat. The tradition of adorning graves and memorials with wreaths dates back to the time just after the Civil War when the holiday was known as Decoration Day. Decoration Day served to cherish the memory of fallen soldiers by beautifying their graves with flowers and wreaths. Though Memorial Day is a somber occasion, it has evolved to include the joyous aspects marking the beginning of the summer season.

Here are 3 ways to enjoy a meaningful Memorial Day:

1. Honor.

Pay tribute to the fallen soldiers by experiencing one of the Memorial Day ceremonies or attending a parade honoring Veterans.

At 11am EDT on Monday May 31st Arlington National Cemetery hosts a wreath-laying ceremony and concert at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. It will be publicized on major television networks. In a highly unusual move, President Barack Obama this year is going to skip the traditional Memorial Day event at Arlington National Cemetery to return home to Chicago for the long holiday weekend. Obama will make remarks at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and miss the usual tradition of presidents speaking at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

At 2pm EDT, the National Memorial Day Parade kicks off in Washington, DC. The parade features marching bands and Veterans units from all 50 states, and will also be covered on major television networks.

Check newspapers or websites for times of local ceremonies and parades where you can pay respect in your area.

2. Serve.

While military service does not call to everyone, you can make a difference in your community with local service. Volunteering with Veterans, children, animals, or any cause that speaks to you, allows you can contribute in a meaningful way.

VolunteerMatch.org, an organization that matches volunteers with opportunities.

3. Live.

The reason behind the fighting is to ensure we have the freedom to live beautiful lives. With that in mind, you can better appreciate the Memorial Day evolution that includes the “official” start of summer. People open pools that have been covered all winter, go the beach for the first time of the year, and host backyard barbecues for friends and family. It's good to celebrate Memorial Day with a few American favorites like hot dogs, hamburgers, and apple pie.

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